A short, chilling story from Poppy, the video shop cat

Ed’s note: Obviously Poppy can’t type, or speak English. As such, this blog post comes from a ghost writer.

It was ‘Good’ Friday and one of the humans would arrive soon. I didn’t know which one would turn up – I never know, they don’t have an identifiable routine. I think they do it deliberately to keep us in the dark, on our toes, always just slightly on edge. I don’t know how to be sure of exactly when they’ll arrive, either, but I do know I’m always very hungry when they do. And wherever they go at night – they leave every day a little after dark – it keeps them for different stretches of time; sometimes one night, sometimes many…

There wasn’t anything ‘Good’ about that Friday; it was soured by the coagulated, bloody stench of death. I wanted to walk out the door, find a nearby human to scoop me up and keep me safe. But my brother – he hissed at me – and besides, I was hungry, so even the headless corpse on the rug couldn’t stop me waiting for the human to arrive. The human would still feed me, even after they’d discovered the body, right?

It was difficult to reassure myself as more and more time passed – I don’t know how long. So I was decided to keep myself busy, cleaning. I just kept cleaning my paws. Maybe, just maybe, I thought, if I can get my paws clean, everything will be alright. But my nerves were shot and each time a DVD flew through the letterbox in the door, thwacking onto the hard, cold, concrete floor, I drew in a short, sharp breath. These moments must have been quick but time seemed to have slowed down. All I knew was that I wanted it to be over; I really wanted my paw to be clean.

A familiar jangle caught my attention, and then the door creaked ajar, stopped in its tracks by the now large pile of DVDs on the shop floor. The human slid through the opening and bent down to pick up the loud, nerve-wracking culprits. As she did – it was the female human today – she chirruped sweetly, “Morning Kitts! How are my darling kitties, today?” I know I should have faced her and said something, explained it wasn’t me, but the female human never listens, she just chirrups back at me, no matter what I say, no matter how urgent or unpleasant something is. I was frightened, I don’t mind to admit it.

I ran. I stole one last glimpse of my brother out of the corner of my eye, and then I ran.

By now I was sat atop the warm white thing in the kitchen – I think the humans call it a fridge and sometimes they manage to pry it apart, producing food we’re not allowed to eat. Neither my brother nor I have learned how to get it open but I’m confident that one day we will. Anyway, back to today – today, the human was approaching the kitchen, ready to start her cycle of strange behaviours; first she makes my litter tray smell weird, then she makes the rest of the place smell weird and it isn’t until after the strange smell changes everything that she finally gives us our food. Well, not food like it used to be, but a puzzle ball that has our food inside. We have to concentrate and follow it around, you see. Then, if we keep our focus well enough, the food comes out of the ball. It wasn’t always like this but the female human, especially, seems to enjoy making us concentrate on the puzzle balls.

It was clear she hadn’t noticed the body, yet. She went about her routine, turning on lights, one bright spell after another, until finally, she saw it. Headless, motionless, and forever staining her brand new carpet, there it lay, dead upon the floor.

To be continued…


Is it conceptual?

I am used to people being baffled by the existence of a video shop in 2017 (2016, 2015, etc, back to Y2K), but last week I was faced with a question about the ontology of the thing…

“It’s conceptual?” she asked…

Flicks is not (intentionally, at least) an installation / work of art. It is, I reply, a 20th century video shop: we rent movies to people for money. But, if I reflect on the question (as I have been forced to do ever since I was asked) I can’t really insist that my reply rings true.

If we understand the “video shop” as a company or business (which is Ltd) then it’s a concept, which means that we want to understand it as a physical thing. It is not, however, the sum of its many tangible parts; the films on DVD or VHS are objects within it, but not actually “it” at all.  Nor is it 19 Christmas Steps – that’s just where it is; it was somewhere else before and something else was in its place and will no doubt be here/there in future. It is also not any one, two, three or more specific people; the change in ownership some four or five years ago and the advent of cats continues to challenge the notion that even people are a persistent imperative.

It is, then, the renting of movies – but isn’t that just a theoretical thing, anyway? I mean, we make up and change the rules on rental all the time (prices, duration, subscription model, loyalty programmes, etc), and haven’t we absolutely messed with the original model by introducing a private hire space and a selection of local records for sale?

Surely, then, the “video shop” is only conceptual.

But it can’t  just be the idea of renting movies, either, because iTunes and other online platforms, from which you can rent movies, aren’t a video shop – are they?

Is it, then, the idea of renting movies from people in a physical place?

But that can’t be  it, either, because you can do that at the library and what we do is different… isn’t it?

Well, i suppose, then, we could say that what’s unique to the “video shop”, which seems now to be as marked by its scarcity as anything else, is that it is born of an historical moment and that the link or persistence of its historical imperative is paramount to its present ontology. The 20th Century part of its and our title means everything.

Further, we might surmise that the video shop is also an attitude as much as a concept:  the rules, service and space we continually decide to provide are a matter of attitude originating from three company Directors – myself and the two Daves.

It is definitely not, then, a number of other things people have tried to convince me that it is (especially over the past two or so years as it becomes oddly fetishized like the redundant format of VHS): not an archive, not a repository, not a library, not a community service. It can only exist (conceptually, even) because of the collectively understood and accepted existence of a specific concept in the past and, as such a time should ever occur that we should stop renting movies to people for money (the one immovable concept of its historical persistence), then it should cease to be a “video shop”.

So, while that still doesn’t qualify it as an art project or installation, it is true that the video shop is conceptual. Which makes my job far more difficult than just renting movies to people for money (which is hard enough). I must also tell people about 20th Century Flicks (a “video shop”) in order to garner their acknowledgement and endorsement of the ontology of the concept: only through collective cognizance can I hope to prove, and continue, its existence.